Farming subsidies to be protected until 2022

5 Jan 18

Farming subsidies will be protected at the current EU level until 2022, the environment secretary Michael Gove has said.

Another system of financially supporting farmers will then be phased in, using “public money for public goods”, which will include rewarding farmers for planting woodland, boosting wildlife and improving water quality.  

“We have guaranteed that the amount we allocate to farming support - in cash terms - will be protected throughout and beyond [the two year transitional period after Brexit] right up until the end of this Parliament in 2022,” Gove told the Oxford Farm Conference yesterday

He explained the UK could have its own food, agricultural and environmental policies once the common agricultural policy ceases to apply after Brexit.

He said the current CAP “gives the most from the public purse to those who have the most private wealth…it rewards farmers for sticking to methods of production that are resource-inefficient and also incentivises an approach to environmental stewardship which is all about mathematically precise field margins and not truly ecologically healthy landscapes”.

He said his own department also needed to change, admitting that the Rural Payments Agency “has historically taken far too long to get money from government to farmers” while the Countryside Stewardship schemes had been “dizzyingly complex to apply for”.

He gave the example of farm inspections arising from the CAP as occurring “too often, too ineffectively and in far too many cases for the wrong things”, with at least five bodies involved with overlapping responsibilities.

Gove said the current subsidies system of financially helping farmers was ‘inefficient’.  By being linked to the size of land holding it rewarded incumbents, restricted new thinking and help back innovation, he said.

“Having a subsidy system which incentivises farmers to place every acre they can into food production means that public money isn’t always being spent on renewing natural capital assets like forestry and wetlands,” he said.

Gove said he wanted systems that encouraged sustainably managed land, which would be “far more productive than land that is stressed and stripped of its nutrients”.

Kevin Bentley, chair of the Local Government Association’s Brexit task and finish group, said the government should also pledged to help replace EU funding for regions.

It says local areas will lose £8.4bn of EU regional funding after Brexit.

 “The clock is ticking for the government to similarly set out a firm plan to replace this funding into the next decade and beyond," he said. 

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